Human Ashes Force Cancellation of Met Operas

 Photo Credit: The New York Times

Photo Credit: The New York Times

10/29/2016 - An audience member at the Metropolitan Opera sprinkled a powdery substance — what the police said may have been the ashes of his mentor — into the orchestra pit during an intermission of a performance on Saturday, setting off a police investigation and the cancellation of the rest of that opera and a production that evening.


10/30/2016 - At the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday than Roger Kaiser, a Texas opera buff who, the police believe, inadvertently created a terrorism scare that forced the Met to cut its matinee short and cancel its evening performance.


11/2/2016 - The Dallas opera lover who scattered a friend’s ashes in the orchestra pit at the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday — causing a terrorism scare, and forcing the Met to cut one performance short and cancel another — apologized Wednesday in a letter emailed to Met officials:

Dear Mr. Gelb and the entire Metropolitan Opera community,

I never imagined I would ever need to sit down and write an apology to several thousand opera goers, to all the people behind the scenes and in the productions, to the staff of such a beloved arts organization, and to New York’s emergency responders. Yet I find myself needing to extend a heartfelt apology to all concerned for inadvertently creating a disturbance at the Metropolitan Opera last weekend.

By way of making amends, please allow me to share a bit of my story, and that of Terry Turner, under whose tutelage I became an avid opera lover.

Terry was a regular customer at the restaurant where I worked for many years. He sat in another waiter’s section, so I only knew him by face. After I went to my first opera in 1999, one of our mutual friends told me Terry really loved opera. So I gave him my number and we chatted a little bit. He was, sadly, moving back to Atlanta in just a few days.

But our relationship immediately became that of pen pals. We wrote religiously. I, being completely new to the art form, asked the most basic of questions. He, a master of all things opera, answered them patiently and completely.

By the end of his life, I had a stack of Terry’s letters on his nice stationery more than 8 inches deep.

Terry and I connected a few times to go to the opera together. I went to Atlanta first. We met in Santa Fe twice and Cincinnati once. He orated non-stop on all our trips. I was an eager student; he was SO happy to have someone to talk to about opera.

I actually know very little of the man himself. He didn’t waste time talking about himself. Just the opera. Tales of his opera goings. And answers to my endless stream of questions. Friends of mine who met us in Santa Fe also grew to adore Terry, begging him to meet us there every year. They loved to listen to him talk opera, too! Often, after our daily two-hour breakfast, we would go sit under a tree and continue our talks.

One day, toward the beginning of 2012, I got a letter that he was coming back to Dallas to live. Relocating. And then he added that a previous bout with cancer had returned.

Terry arrived on a Sunday morning on the bus. I took off work, and we spent the day together. I cooked a nice meal and we took turns deciding which opera we should listen to. He slept on the floor of my second bedroom.

Terry was clearly very, very ill. He went to urgent care at Parkland Hospital in Dallas the next day and they admitted him. He never came back home. While we were discussing his situation in the hospital, once he had opted to be made comfortable till the end, I told Terry that if he would like, I would take some of his ashes to opera houses that I visited in the future. Trying to lighten the mood, I jokingly told Terry they would never be able to vacuum all of him up. He would be there forever enjoying all the beautiful music. His coherency was not good, really, but he sure liked the idea. About a week later, he died on April 25, 2012.

That is what this was. A sweet gesture to a dying friend that went completely and utterly wrong in ways that I could never have imagined. If I had ever thought anything like this could happen, I would never have done it.

I wasn’t secretive about it. I’ve mentioned this promise to many people over the 3 years since he passed. No one ever cautioned that I should reconsider or not do it. I think we each just got caught up in the romanticism of it all. The ugly possibilities never occurred to anyone — myself included.

As a devoted opera enthusiast, the reality of the situation weighs heavily on me.

I impacted people who came to see an opera that was being performed at the Met for the first time in 80 years. People who came to hear what may be one of Maestro Levine’s last outings on the podium. People who came to experience top-notch singers at the best opera house in the world.

These are the very operatic experiences that I encourage others to partake in. Just like Terry encouraged me. I am really not sure I will ever be able to forgive myself for that.

Opera is so much more than just something I enjoy. I LOVE IT. I have no real musical knowledge or training. Just a pretty good ear and a whole lot of enthusiasm. An enthusiasm that blinded me from seeing the potential risks involved in scattering the ashes of my mentor in the orchestra pit of the Met.

I can see now that to others, from the outside, it probably sounds downright foolish. And to all those impacted, I am profoundly sorry.

Warmest regards from a devoted fan,

Roger Kaiser